Virginia Beach

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My name is De and I am 68 year old transgender woman. I have been advocating for trans rights in Virginia for over 25 years.  I founded the Gender Expression Movement (GEM) support group, was a staff member at ACCESS AIDS Care/LGBT Center of Hampton Roads, and currently sit on the Board of Directors of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia (TAPVA).  I love my work and am available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for trans people in need.


When I began transitioning in the mid-1990s, I felt alone and completely isolated.  The advent of internet chat rooms introduced me to local and national trans communities, which provided immense social and emotional support.  During this time I was working as an international business consultant but, within a week of coming out as transgender, I was fired.  Even though I contacted the ACLU for assistance, there was nothing they could do since there are no federal or state laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


My current work focuses on educating Virginians about the massive hardships transgender residents face and what we can all do to change that.  Many trans people are forced from their homes and are underemployed because of who they are.  Trans affirming homeless shelters are incredibly limited in this state.  In eastern Virginia rural communities, many trans people are afraid to go to the doctor or shop for clothing that matches their gender identity for fear of being mocked, harassed, or asked to leave.  They are still isolated and afraid, because it is legal to discriminate against them.


We have to advocate and help others understand what’s at stake: people’s lives and livelihoods.  Transgender individuals don’t want anything extra or some sort of special treatment; we just want what everyone else has.  Through my work at TAPVA, we provide cultural competency training so organizations can become better environments for trans people and resources for those trans folx experiencing homelessness.  By updating non-discrimination bills in housing, employment, and public accommodations, Virginia will be a place where trans people can work and live on equal footing with their friends and neighbors.